St. Andrew's joins the nation in mourning the death of the 41st President of the United States, George Bush.
As our President, Vice President, Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, United States envoy to China, Chair of the Republican National Committee, Ambassador to the United Nations, Congressman, Naval Aviator in the Navy in World War II, Bush explored and defined a life of public service marked by remarkable and refreshing humility, courage, grace, and kindness. His former Secretary of State and close friend James Baker suggested yesterday that George Bush would ultimately be judged by history as our greatest one term President. He particularly cited Bush's brilliant handling of the dissolution of the Soviet Empire, the fall of the Berlin Wall, and dramatic changes in Eastern Europe.
In his New Yorker essay on President Bush, Thomas Mallon told an old boarding school story:
"Leave the kid alone," George Herbert Walker Bush said when as a teenage boy at Andover, he spotted a fellow student being bullied. As if he were Zorro, performing a casual rescue and then vanishing, Bush left Bruce Gelb, the undersized Jewish kid he'd aided, to ask a witness, "Who was that?" Gelb learned that it was Poppy Bush, "the greatest kid in the school."
From his parents, from his education, from his privilege, George Bush cultivated humility, grace, and generosity towards others.
Following a disappointing defeat in his re-election campaign, we saw this same commitment to dignity and a public good in his letter to Bill Clinton that greeted the new President on January 20, 1993: "You will be our President when you read this note. I wish you well. I wish your family well. Your success now is your country's success. I am rooting hard for you." On Saturday, Clinton commented that the letter revealed George Bush to be "an honorable, gracious, and decent man who believed in the United States, our Constitution, our institutions, and our shared future." New York Times writer Julia Jacobs points out that the outgoing presidential letter Bush modeled became a tradition for Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama.
I hope that the example of courage, service, and humility in President Bush's life will inspire others to embody and fight for civility, respect, service, and intelligence in American life. Our flag flies at half staff all week in honor of President Bush.